Saturday, December 31, 2011

November/December Update

The last two months have gone by super fast for us. Kazumi and the kids were in Guam for the first 3 weeks of November working on a tie up to a small Christian school there. I (John) was able to spend about 8 days there. Then December hit. During December we meet with each and every parent. I should say Kazumi does, I watch the baby in the other room. So about 50+ different meetings were scheduled at our home. Each meeting takes about 30 minutes. Family life is a complicated thing and often very difficult things are shared: from bullying, parents divorcing, to deaths in the family.
I was teaching a group of adults at my dinner table last week and we started talking about vacation plans. One woman shared that her family had no plans as her newly born and only grandchild had a serious medical condition and would be in the hospital over the vacation. We are praying for this family.
Another family sat in that same chair a week later and we talked with them about Christian education. They agreed (in the spiritual sense) to but their daughter in a church’s after school program that I will be teaching at from April.
As I write this it is the day after Christmas. Cherry has gone to school. Winter vacation has not started here yet. The 23rd was Emperor Akihito’s birthday and a national holiday.. So on the 23rd, a local church rented a cultural center and threw a Jesus centered Christmas party for children. A couple of hundred children were in attendance.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

News From November

Over the last three weeks we have been networking with a small private Christian school in Guam to provide new opportunities for educational evangelism. We did a trial run. For 3 weeks Cherry studied there as an international student. Yesterday Kazumi, Cherry, and Bianca came back to Japan and they are now home. I also was there for the first week but had to return because of work. It was a wonderful experience. As it was the off season we were able to travel on 25,000 airline miles per ticket. Bianca is also under 2 so she did not need a ticket. All in all it was the best vacation we have had. We enjoyed the fellowship and look forward to future opportunities to work with them in creating new opportunities to reach the Japanese with the gospel. Guam recieves about 800,000 Japanese tourists a year as it is much closer than Hawaii and more affordable.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Written For Calvin College's Japanese Department about my life in Japan

The Van Farowe’s in Japan

I was one of the first Calvin grads to participate in the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program. Of all of the grads I am probably one of the few who have remained in Japan long term. Over the last 15+ years I have had 4 different types of visas. I have had a teaching visa, a Japanese language student visa, a missionary visa, and now a spouse visa.

During those 15 years I have lived in Hirado City (Nagasaki), Fukuoka City, Tokyo, Guam, and now the greater Nagoya Metro area. I have seen more of Japan than most Japanese people and this is what I have learned.

Knowing the language is not as important as knowing the people and knowing yourself. I have had many foreign friends whose Japanese is better than my own but who the Japanese people can not stand to be around them. I have seen foreigners running from who they are in Japan and it is obvious to everyone. The key to success in Japan is to not only know Japanese, and know the people, but most importantly to know oneself.

It is very easy in Japan to be an English Teacher and make $30,000 a year. It is very difficult to be anything else unless you know yourself. Today I work with the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society out of California, formed by Japanese American churches after World War II. I work with several local churches including the Reformed Church of Japan. We have an English school with 120+ students. We have local contracts with Japanese companies, a Nursing College, an elite Junior High & High School, an elementary school, and many local community classes.

The secret to making it to where we are has been knowing who we are. This has allowed Japanese people regardless of their belief system to trust us. I am thankful for the start I received at Calvin College. In the end it was not the Japanese language courses that helped me the most in Japan but a Reformed Christian worldview which helped me to become someone others saw as trustworthy.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In our Lifetimes

In the last 100 years the gospel has moved forward around the world. When I think about Japan 100 years ago and today, now is the time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Aging of Japan

The Japanese Health Ministry estimates the nation's total population will decrease by 25% from 127.8 million in 2005 to 95.2 million by 2050. Japan's elderly population, aged 65 or older, comprised 20% of the nation's population in June 2006, a percentage expected to increase to 40% by 2055.

I work a lot with children but also with the 40+ crowd. Personally I think the way to reach Japan is to reach the 40+ crowd. They are the largest section of the population. They stay in their geographical area. They have resources to give upon believing. They have life experience to enable them to become leaders.

I see missionaries and ministries target the young. If you go to their churches there are no grey heads. Churches like that in my opinion are a niche church. Businesses are already adjusting but the church is still often driven by the American youth model. Our English school franchise system and every business in Japan is changing to meet this coming demographic move.

The 60+ crowd is not going to put their hands in the air and wave them like they just don't care. They are more likely to bow their heads and fold their hands in reverent prayer. I am excited to be working with the Reformed Church in Japan because I see us prepared for the times we are in. When I walk into my church and see 33% of the members at or above retirement age, it is a sign that we are reaching Japan. That is who Japan is and who God calls us to reach.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Junior Summer Camp

Last year the Central Presbytery of the Reformed Church of Japan began a 3 day camp for elementary and junior high school students. This year's theme was "the lost sheep." 48 children stayed in the cabins at the camp center along with 22 adult supervisors. The children were divided by grade level where they studied different Bible passages and developed a presentation. I worked with the junior high age group. The event went really well. A lot of the regional pastors were on staff and it was a blessing to get to know them in that context. My non-christian nephew and niece came and had a great time. Cherry had a great time too. We thank God for this ministry. I will post more photos and stories from this time over the next few days.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July Prayer Letter

Ministry News
As summer approaches, so does camping season. Our valley has the camp grounds for the Reformed Church of Japan in it. Kazumi will be a staff member for the elementary school children’s camp and me for the junior high. We are excited to see Cherry go with two non-Christian cousins. Pray that my nephew Kosei, niece Riko and the many other campers will learn of the love of God as they study about God’s love for the lost sheep.

The outreach English Conversation class will be on break in August. From April we had to move meeting from Thursdays to Tuesdays. When we met on Thursday we met on the weeks the pastor’s Thursday book club was on break. Since we lost that tie-up attendance has been down. I also continue to have a weekly breakfast fellowship time for English speaking ex-pats. A non-Christian friend from New Zealand attended for the first time this past month and we pray he returns.

On June 19th two adults were baptized at Tajimi Reformed Church. One was the husband of a longtime member and the other was the younger sister of a woman baptized at Christmas. You may remember that two adults were baptized on Christmas and two made profession of faith. Also two others are currently studying for baptism. Since I first came to Japan in 1996 as an English teacher, I have never seen this many people come to accept Christ in a local church setting.

Support News
Support raising has been slow. While we wait for additional support to come in we continue to serve in local churches doing the above as volunteers and absorbing any cost. At times we are having problems doing ministry, teaching 130 children at our home and caring for our own family emotional needs.

We will continue to do our best, and I believe that the level of support we receive is the level God desires us to have and we will be thankful for it while petitioning God for more. At the same time pray that we will be like the wise managers turning our 5 talents into 10. Pray for us to have the support, the wisdom and the energy to do the work of the Kingdom. Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send us anything or anyone we may need. Amen.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Two Adults were Baptized June 19th

On June 19th two adults were baptized at Tajimi Reformed Church. One was the younger sister of a woman baptized at Christmas. The other was the husband of a longtime member. Two others are currently studying for baptism. We are very excited to see growth at Tajimi Reformed Church . There is currently also a discussion on building a new facility. The elders met in session to discuss it this past week. When I asked one of the elders what kind of time frame they were thinking of for a new facility, he told me they might challenge the church to start within 3 years.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A New Family Came and Sat in Our Seats - Praise God

As children many of us read the story of Goldie Locks and the 3 bears. In the story there is the refrain - "Someone's been sitting in my chair, eating my food, and sleeping in my bed." Well, Japanese churches are quite small and our church has no more seating room. That means when someone new comes they have to take what someone considers to be their seat.

This past Sunday a mother and three young children came and sat in the back in the row we as a family sit in. We had to sit somewhere else of course but rather than it irritate me it made me rejoice. I found myself praising God that not only did a new family come but they sat in our seats.

After the service seating in my new seat, I saw another young woman who is a seeker and in the preparation for baptism class talking with a strong Christian. As they talked the believing woman took the young woman's hand and with their heads bowed they began to pray. I would not have seen it from my old seat.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A little info on JEMS - Our Missionary Sending Agency

JEMS is an interdenominational evangelical Christian para-church organization. Our goal is to reach the non-churched Japanese world-wide and Asian Americans nation-wide with the dynamic Gospel of Jesus Christ and equipping the Christian disciples to serve God. Our mission statement is "creatively developing and providing ministry opportunities in partnership with the churches, enabling the Japanese and those of Asian descent to be authentic disciples of Jesus Christ."JEMS is committed to servant-hood and partnership with pastors and local churches. The ministries include International Missions to Japan and South America, US Campus Ministry in USA (AACF), Specialized Ministry including Careers/Young Adults, Women, Men for Missions, 55 & Better Seniors, Sports & Recreation, Music, Nichigo (Japanese speaking ministry) and Developmentally Handicapped as well as Leadership training and Annual Family Conferences and Retreats for all ages.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April May Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

First of all thank you for your prayers and support for the gospel in Japan. The cherry blossoms bloomed a few weeks ago and Cherry began elementary school. At the entrance ceremony I was approached by the vice principal and asked to teach English lessons there. I will go to Dachi Elementary School 28 times throughout the year and teach 2 or 3 hours a day.

This past month a new woman began attending and the Yoshida family from Sendai (earthquake area) was staying in an apartment provided by a church member. Pastor Yoshida who is one of the lead pastors in Sendai has charge of several reformed churches and the ministry alliance there. He stayed in Sendai while his family stayed with our church. The Yoshida family had lived in Grand Rapids while Pastor Yoshida was studying for his PHD at Calvin Seminary, so we had a lot of connections to share. They returned to Sendai this past Wednesday. We greatly enjoyed each other’s fellowship.

A young woman from our church just returned from Sendai after volunteering for the past month. As she spoke in front of church this past Sunday, she was moved to tears. She shared what she had seen and the little help she was able to provide. Another woman from our English group, who is a regular attendee the last 6 months, has a believing son who is a nurse in Australia. He has received a month off and will be going to the Sendai area to serve in connection with a Christian relief ministry there.

While I was hoping a young woman studying for baptism would possibly be baptized on Easter, it did not happen. However, two other women are now also in the class for preparation for baptism.

We pray that you are all well. We remember you in our prayers. Drop us an email or note about your prayer needs. We praise God for his goodness even in difficult times in Japan and possibly the season before Christ's return.

Serving Christ in Japan
John, Kazumi, Cherry & Bianca VanFarowe

Friday, March 25, 2011

Serving Christ In End Times

Serving Christ in End Times

3 days ago I went for a walk and saw an elderly woman, Tokiko, who is a good friend of mine. She has studied the Bible with me in the past. She saw me and called my name as I walked around the small lake near my home. “Are you and your family going back to America?” Tokiko asked. Many foreigners are leaving Japan.

I am reminded of Luke 17:33. Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. This warning is present in all of the gospels when Jesus discusses End Times. The problems are so big that people have a choice to live for themselves or lose their life. For many they decide to live for themselves and their love grows cold.

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Mark 24:13~15)

Last year an earthquake hit Haiti that killed over 200,000 people. In 2008 an earthquake hit China that killed 70,000. In 2004 an earthquake hit Indonesia that killed 250,000. Just to give it some perspective in World War II the US had 418,000 military deaths. These are big numbers. The problems of the world are so big that we numb ourselves and let our hearts grow cold. We become like Lots wife thinking of ourselves rather than following the God leading us out of Sodom.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. (Mark 8:34-38)

We live in a unique time with a unique calling. Kazumi and I got in an argument last week about money. We do not have a college fund for our children but yet are giving to various world wide causes and support our local church. Kazumi in frustration asked me, “Do you love some person in Africa more than your own family?” Of course I don’t. I assured her that when the time came for our children to go to college somehow God would provide. But today the gospel needs to go forward, and starving people need to eat, and those in distress need care.

To my friends in America the news of Japan’s earthquake and the 20,000 dead has been interrupted by the news of another war we are in. But we are not really in a war with Libya but with the prince of this age. Pick up your cross! Do not let your Love Grow Cold! Give your Life for Christ knowing you will only gain your soul! The problems are too great to solve but with our eyes on Christ let’s move forward in love, serving and proclaiming the good news! In His Return the prince of this age will be put to shame and we will receive the Father’s Glory.

I don’t want you to respond to the quake in Japan. There will be more earthquakes, wars, and famines. Respond to Christ and reflect on how you can give to His Kingdom. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. Thank you for your prayers for Japan. Japan is still the second largest unreached people group in the world. Pray that we in Japan will do more than save ourselves but give our lives to the Savior.

Friday, January 14, 2011

January Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,
We are back in Japan. We continue to work towards transition into greater missionary service while maintaining our teaching schedule.

Reitaku Schools have agreed that it is okay for me to continue there as a part-time lecturer while doing church work. They have created a 2 1/2 day schedule over 33 weeks providing for our tentmaking income goal of 33% of needed support.

Yesterday I spent an hour with a seeker at Tajimi Reformed Church doing a Bible study. Pray for those God is leading to faith. This person has been associated with us for about 2 years now.

Prayer Requests
Pray for our support raising efforts. In total we need to raise about $21,000 in outside support. Several churches will be considering supporting us for the next budget year. Pray for a positive result. We need to develop a several month cushion in our budget before we start missionary works in April.

Pray for cooperation with Japanese Churches. Our home church, Tajimi Reformed has asked us to put together a vision and proposals for this year. Pray that we will be able to start an evangelical outreach service on Friday nights and that the local church will allow for the service to collect its own offerings and also support it from its general budget. Our launch goal for a new service is April.
We are thankful for the many opportunities that God gives us. We pray that in gathering support and making contacts with those around us, that God will enable us to establish a self supporting, self leading, reproducing group of new believers. We pray these believers will then establish God’s glory in Japan and serve his church.

Blessings to you in your walk with God.
John and Kazumi Van Farowe and family